Gluten free prescribing – in the news
Gluten free prescribing has once again been in the headlines following a breaking story last month. In an interview to the Daily Mail, Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, announced he was looking at the removal of gluten free foods on prescription.
We are deeply disappointed by this announcement. At Coeliac UK we know that gluten free prescribing protects vulnerable patients. As stated by Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive, “I am very concerned that vulnerable and elderly patients today will be waking up to the headlines that prescriptions for the breads and flours that they rely upon as part of a healthy balanced diet will be removed in one fell swoop. The worry and distress this will cause should not be underestimated.
Although Mr Stevens goes on to talk about a consultation on the proposals the clear impression is that this is a done deal.
“Furthermore the comments he makes about availability of such products, for example in Lidl, show the lack of understanding about the reality of access. In fact Lidl for example do not routinely stock such products. Research shows that budget and convenience stores, which are relied upon by the most vulnerable such as the elderly, those with disabilities and on low incomes, have virtually no provision.”
Mr Stevens also misleadingly implies that significant sums are spent by the NHS on biscuits and cakes. He will know that guidance, backed by Coeliac UK, for many years has rejected such spend.
It is also stated that ‘the price of gluten free alternatives has come down substantially’. This is not backed up by the evidence. Industry data since 2008 demonstrates that the cost difference between gluten free breads and flours is six times and has not gone down throughout that period.
Gluten free prescribing – what can be done
What we are doing
A public consultation was launched by the NHS on Friday 31 March. Since then, Coeliac UK have been liasing with our stakeholders (eg the BDA and BSG) before we respond comprehensively to the consultation. We are looking forward to the opportunity to engage with the NHS in the consultation process, having already written to Simon Stevens, to request a meeting to make sure that the needs of patients with coeliac disease are realised and that an equitable solution is found.
The official announcement today sets out three options as part of the consultation:
- option 1- make no changes: Make no changes to the National Health Service
- option 2- end prescribing of gluten free foods in primary care
- option 3- restrict prescribing of gluten free foods: to only allow the prescribing of certain gluten free foods (eg bread and flour) in primary care.
The deadline to respond is 22 June, which gives us time to make our case again.
We will be trying to persuade the NHS to consider alternatives that will deliver cost savings, while providing support for patients with coeliac disease and particularly the most vulnerable, to support dietary adherence and reduce the risk of long term complications which could cost the NHS more in the long run.
What you can do - Share your story with Coeliac UK
It is incredibly important that we balance the statistical evidence with real life stories. We are in need of stories from people who:
- use prescriptions regularly and can tell us what cuts will mean to them
- are living in an area already experiencing cuts who can tell us what impact prescription restrictions are having
- relied on prescriptions on when first diagnosed to help them adjust to the diet.
If you are willing to share your story please complete this form (a supply will be available at the AGM)
What you can do – Early Day Motion
MP Keven Jones has put forward an Early Day Motion in support of gluten free prescribing. We are asking everybody to contact their MP and ask them to support the Motion.
To find your MPs details go to www.theyworkforyou.com
To find out more about the Early Day Motion go to www.parliament.uk/edm/2016-17/1123